Author: Barnaby Porter

‘Til Death Do Us Part

A pair of Canada geese swimming

For some months now, I have been receiving regular updates from my friends, Sarah and Rich, who a year ago bought a country place with fields and a farm pond big enough to provide suitable surroundings for their bounding passel of kids. Rich has long yearned, privately, to become a gentleman farmer. Sarah has been too busy to yearn for anything more than peace and harmony. Now, they’ve got it all.

One of their great pleasures has been this body of water “down in the back forty,” the farm pond, which I would estimate …

Summer Jobs

black bear

A hot summer afternoon in my shop with a fly or two buzzing around my head makes me look yearningly at the lazy fluffs of clouds in the sky and wish I were out there somewhere on the sparkling sea, waves lapping at the hull of my boat, nothing more to do than stand at the helm and allow my senses to inhale the essence of our amazing coastal waters.

“Vacationland,” they call our state. For amusement, I turn on my scanner to eavesdrop on what’s going on beyond …

Shags Come to the Symphony

cormorant in flight

By way of introduction, Barnaby writes, “This piece was written some years back during one of Round Top’s many earlier incarnations. It was a memorable event and might well be something Coastal Rivers should or could contemplate repeating in the future ~ perhaps a “Concert for the Climate”. . . or a “Riverine Symphony.”

People speak of “the ecology” in a grand way these days. It kind of hurts my ears. What they really mean to say, I think, is “the ecosystem” or perhaps …

Not Very Showy, Not Much of a Smell

bald eagle in a white pine tree

I’ve been cutting a few white pines just lately – the Maine state tree, bearing, in this season, the state flower. It’s not much of a flower some would say, not very showy, not much of a smell – just a pale yellow tassel in the whispering forest canopy.

But . . . there’s something to be said for numbers, and there certainly are a lot of those pine flowers nodding across the state – a lot of pine trees for that matter, great tracts covered by them, whole towns, and on every tree, how many …

The Fisher


This post is part of a series contributed by Coastal Rivers Trustee Barnaby Porter. Read the previous post here. There is a cloak and dagger figure among us. At least that is his reputation. He is more often silent and hidden by day, prowling mostly under cover of darkness and, occasionally, betrays his whereabouts with a genuine, blood-curdling scream. His name is Martes pennanti, alias “the Black Cat.” Other names are Fisher and Fisher Cat. To him have been credited the sinister disappearances of Figaro, Lucifer, Ragamuffin, Muckleroy, Tiger and Tabby – all members of the Felis domesticus clan. The

April Fools

sunset on the river, seen through the pines

Of this essay, Barnaby writes, “Some of this piece might read like fiction. It’s not . . . not a word.”

April is my favorite month of year, not only for the whisperings and stirrings of spring it offers but for the promises it makes and for the associations it has left me with in my lifetime. I was born in early April, which was perfect so far as I was concerned as a kid. It was the beginning of fishing season, serious bike riding and baseball. There was no better time to have a birthday with a good likelihood of receiving at least one of those badly needed trappings of boyhood, like a new fishing rod or a baseball glove.

Birthdays aren’t quite so exciting as they used to be, but they…

Window on the Dawn

sunrise on the river

Every morning as I brush my teeth, I stand looking out the window over my sink at the river, just a stone’s throw across the lawn. It’s not a passive scene – soothing to my dishevelment at that hour, yes – but rather an active scene of the running tide, the new dawn’s weather and creatures beginning their day.

A nosy relative once opened my medicine cabinet and exclaimed in a suspicious tone, “What on earth’ve you got binoculars in the bathroom for?”

Summer House

roots, rock, snow and icicles

Note from Barnaby: “This is a letter I wrote in 1986, 33 years ago, to my friend, Bill Tyne, who spends summers on Merry Island.”

Dear Bill,

I haven’t written in some time, which might give some indication of what sort of winter we’ve been having – it’s been deep. If this is what they mean by “the depths of winter,” I can tell you it takes no small amount of shoveling. I will let that stand …

The Night the River Froze

lobster buoys in a snowstorm

Last week it came off cold. Up until then, things had been pretty tame as winters go. The Damariscotta remained completely open, the tide whispering and roiling as always, keeping the old ice-maker at bay. Boat traffic had been regular, for January anyhow, mostly clam diggers and oystermen, and the steady trading of ducks, the swift drifting of ice cakes and the grinding of shell ice around the point all served, if anything, to heighten my awareness of the river’s deep-running power.

Despite the history of winters past, the ones that gave us old …

Shell Ice

new ice on the Damariscotta River

I was eating breakfast. Out the kitchen window, stillness prevailed in the clear dawn except for the titmice and chickadees at the feeder. The river was placid, a coasting sheet of glass reflecting the far shore in the golden glow of first light. The tide had turned in the last hour, the boat on its mooring now headed upriver. The thermometer read eighteen degrees. Three buffleheads beat around the point and wheeled into the cove.

As I munched my toast, my eye caught some movement …